IBM 'non-delivery' cited in GSN project failure

Some of the blame for the NZ$28 million Government Shared Network project failure is being laid at the feet of IBM, according to reports released to Computerworld under the Official Information Act.

Among a large bundle of documents, a report by Starfish Consulting in March 2008 says IBM misread the project as a run-of-the-mill network installation and failed to appreciate its unique characteristics and size.

The report on "lessons learned" from the GSN project makes a number of negative comments about IBM's role in the contract.

"Their performance has been characterised by non-delivery and high staff turnover of resources that did not appear to have the promised skills," says Starfish. "IBM was perceived to be consistently unable to respond or deliver to meet the aggressive timelines."

Misreading the nature of the project meant that it "fell below IBM's radar" for being the type of project that merited levels of business support and effort expected by the State Services Commission.

The Starfish report records IBM CEO Katrina Troughton and IBM project executive Rob Varker, business area manager Dave Heald and strategic outsourcing director Nicole Crooks as stakeholder interviewees.

IBM is, however, one notable absentee from the interviewee list contained in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report into the GSN failure, released this month. PWC says the company "advised [an interview] as not appropriate given the ongoing contractual disputes addressing the performance of the contract between SSC and IBM".

IBM declined to comment.

The other major report on the project, released this month and conducted by Neil Walter into the GSN's involvement with consultancy Voco, appends a long list of people interviewed, but there are a couple of significant names missing.

Former SSC ICT financial manager David Eagles, who allegedly disputed the award of successive GSN-related contracts to Voco without open tender, is not listed among the interviewees. State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie confirms that Eagles was not interviewed for the report.

"As an independent inquirer, Neil Walter was not constrained about who he sought leave to interview," Rennie says. "My understanding is that he did give David Eagles the opportunity to contribute to the review. David chose not to do so."

The report refers to one potential informant who was not interviewed owing to the state of his health. Asked whether this person was Eagles, Rennie says: "It's my understanding that that's correct."

Eagles was quoted in the media as saying he was assaulted at the commission and subsequently dismissed.

Asked directly whether Eagles is still planning legal action against the commission for unfair dismissal and other mistreatment, as his lawyer previously indicated, Rennie declined to comment

Eagles' lawyer, Barbara Buckett, confirmed last week that an action is still udnerway, but otherwise she also declined comment on the issue, saying the information is privileged between her and her client.

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